'Pen can't prevent Phillies' fifth straight defeat

'Pen can't prevent Phillies' fifth straight defeat

MINNEAPOLIS -- This is a familiar story.

The Phillies could not produce enough offense and they could not hold a lead Wednesday in a 4-3 loss to the Twins at Target Field. After a five-game winning streak last week allowed them to post their first winning record since late last season, the Phils have lost five consecutive games to fall to 31-35.

The offense, which has been one of the worst in baseball, has been discussed incessantly for more than two months.

The bullpen, which also has been one of the worst in baseball, has been analyzed just the same.

So Phillies manager Charlie Manuel got a different question after the game.

Do you think this team just isn't good enough?

"I think you know me," Manuel said. "For about the last nine years, I would never say something like that. First of all, if we have the right attitude and we play the game right and love to play and all that, I think we can win more games than you could ever think we could. I would never ever say that. I think that we keep going and keep trying to grind it out and then we'll see what kind of players we've got as far as mental toughness and hard-nosed and things like that. You can go a long way sometimes just by wanting to play and playing right."

But wanting to play and loving the game might not be enough anymore. The Phillies need to hit better than they have. And the bullpen needs to do a much better job.

They officially lost this game in the eighth inning when right-hander Justin De Fratus pulled a sinker down and in to pinch-hitter Chris Parmelee. Catcher Steven Lerud could not catch it as the wild pitch allowed Clete Thomas to score the winning run from third base.

But Philadelphia left-hander Antonio Bastardo started the mess when he allowed back-to-back doubles to Oswaldo Arcia and Thomas to tie the game. Eduardo Escobar followed with a perfect bunt up the first-base line to put runners at the corners with no outs.

Two batters later, De Fratus yanked the sinker.

"He had no chance to catch it," De Fratus said of Lerud. "It was completely on me. One bad miss. That's the [bad] part about it. It wasn't even a hit."

The Phillies took a 2-0 lead in the first inning and extended the lead to 3-1 in the fifth inning against Twins right-hander Mike Pelfrey, but like so many games this season, they got a small lead and didn't build on it.

"I thought we'd score some runs off Pelfrey," Manuel said. "Especially as the game goes on, we usually score runs off him. It's a different lineup than what we used to throw at him. He tore up the middle of our lineup to the bottom. He tore it up."

Phillies right-hander Tyler Cloyd dodged trouble throughout the night, allowing six hits, one run and three walks while striking out two in five innings. Cloyd, who left after throwing 99 pitches, left the bases loaded in the first inning and stranded two runners in the second.

The Twins scored a run in the fourth, but with runners at the corners and one out, Jamey Carroll bounced into an inning-ending double play. Josh Willingham missed a two-run home run by a few feet in the fifth.

The Twins hit some balls hard, but they could not get them to fall.

Their luck changed against the Phillies' bullpen, which had to try to pick up 12 outs to preserve the victory. The bullpen entered with a 4.48 ERA, which was the second worst in baseball.

Left-hander Joe Savery, making just his second appearance since the Phillies recalled him from Triple-A Lehigh Valley on May 31, allowed a run in the sixth. A combination of Savery, right-hander Mike Stutes and Bastardo worked a scoreless seventh. But Bastardo, starting the eighth against a couple of left-handed hitters, could not finish the job.

"We had the game set up pretty good for matchups," Manuel said. "We couldn't get them out. The bottom line is we didn't get the job done. We had it set up really good. We had it perfect for us. We just didn't close it out."

There is not much left to ask or say at this point, is there?

"I think of things all the time," said Manuel, when asked if any changes could be made. "So far I haven't been able to come up with anything. I try to shuffle the lineup around and do different things. Everybody has been getting to play. I think everybody has been getting a chance."

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.